UK opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has called on the Brazilian government to free the “world’s most prominent political prisoner”, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
The words ‘Lula livre’ (free Lula) have reverberated around the world since 2017, when the double digit presidential front-runner was sentenced to nine years in prison on corruption charges supported by “no material evidence“. Once in jail, the popular ex-president was banned from running in the 2018 election that saw far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro ascend to the presidency.
The calls to free Lula have amplified since June, when the Intercept began publishing leaked conversations of officials involved in Brazil’s Lava Jato corruption probe. The messages revealed that the supposedly neutral judge, Sérgio Moro, and various Brazilian prosecutors worked together to prevent Lula’s Workers’ Party (PT) from securing election victory. Bolsonaro has since threatened the possibility of jail for the journalists behind the embarrassing scandal.
Western leaders have been characteristically quiet about the erosion of democracy in Latin America’s largest state. Indeed, Bolsonaro may be an insult to democracy, but he is no enemy to private capital; and he sees in new UK prime minister Boris Johnson a likely ally.
US senator Bernie Sanders and UK Labour leader Corbyn, however, have openly called on the Brazilian government to free Lula. In a video shared by Lula on 25 July, Corbyn told the International Social Forum in London:
The continued imprisonment of Lula is completely unacceptable… We send a message of solidarity to Lula and call for his release from prison
"A prisão de Lula é absolutamente inaceitável."
O líder trabalhista britânico Jeremy Corbyn pede liberdade para Lula, por um Brasil mais justo e com mais responsabilidade pelo meio ambiente. #LulaLivre pic.twitter.com/mBY2ajOXAN
— Lula (@LulaOficial) July 25, 2019
The crowd met Corbyn’s words with impassioned shouts of ‘Lula livre’.
Bolsonaro joins Donald Trump and Boris Johnson in the recent wave of clown-type right-wing figures who have, to jaws aghast with shock, risen to political office. Unfortunately, their incompetence has done little to minimise their lethality.
Brazil’s Amazon rainforest (described as the Earth’s “lungs“), for example, is being decimated under Bolsonaro. In the first months of 2019, deforestation reportedly “jumped more than 50 percent compared to the amount during the same period in 2018”. To put this in perspective, the deforestation “has now accelerated to the equivalent size of three football pitches a minute”.
The human costs are enormous, and they are expected to multiply beyond measure. Much of the deforestation – largely done illegally for agribusiness – requires the removal of the Indigenous populations that live there. The groups that refuse to surrender their land face threats, assaults, or murder. Those who flee deeper into the rainforest find the environmental damage caused by deforestation elsewhere makes survival increasingly difficult.
Though potentially perilous (land-related murders in Brazil increased by 20% in 2018), many Indigenous groups are resisting the profit-driven invasion of the Amazon under Bolsonaro. Some have formed militias to fight back; others operate patrols to monitor the land-grabbers’ plans before the heavy machinery arrives.
Yet local resistance can only last so long in the face of Bolsonaro’s disaster capitalism – armed and on the march. For this reason, international pressure is more important than ever.
Featured image via Wikimedia – Sophie Brown
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